Peace possible in Kashmir: Clinton
21 December 2000
The Hindustan Times
Washington DC: PRESIDENT BILL Clinton has hailed the latest announcements by India and Pakistan to reduce tensions in Kashmir and said these have raised the hopes of the world community that peace is possible in the trouble-torn State. Supportive of the Indian stance that violence should first be ended to facilitate resumption of the stalled dialogue, President Bill Clinton said: ''I continue to believe that all parties should reject violence and work for a peaceful resolution of the conflict through dialogue.'' The Pakistani moves to reciprocate the Indian initiatives are being viewed as a clear attempt to be on the right side of world public opinion. With a new administration set to take over here next month, Islamabad is ostensibly keen to get back into the US''s good books. It is no ordinary coincidence that Pakistan''s announcement of a partial withdrawal of forces along the line of control has come just a day after the United Nations, primarily at the bidding of the US and Russia, decided to slap stiffer sanctions on the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Pakistan happens to be just one of three countries to have recognised the Taliban regime, which is sheltering Osama bin Laden, the man on the US''s most wanted list. In the circumstances, the Pakistani prop for a regime that runs terrorist camps has indeed been a sore point with Washington. Given this backdrop, Islamabad''s partial withdrawal of troops along the LoC is seen as a move aimed at creating the impression that it is not siding with forces that did not want to give peace a chance. In his statement on the latest developments in the subcontinent, Mr Clinton applauded Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for his ''continuing commitment to pursue a course of peace in Kashmir''. India''s decision to continue the ceasefire that it initiated last month is ''an important step forward''. This initiative, along with Pakistan''s announcement on cutting back its troops and its earlier decision to exercise maximum restraint along the LoC, has raised the hopes of the world community that peace is possible in Kashmir, the outgoing President said. Until Mr Clinton''s visit to the subcontinent last March, the US used to insist on dialogue at all costs. It was on the eve of the visit, that Mr Clinton came up with his four Rs, which placed as much emphasis on renunciation of violence as on resumption of dialogue. In the subsequent months, the spurt in terrorist activities by Pakistani-backed forces only prompted Washington to accept the Indian argument on the futility of talks without ending the violence - a line that has not gone down well with Islamabad.